After the ‘closed-doors’ match against Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill in midweek, training for the next couple of days was quite relaxed. All the hard work had been done and now we could look forward to some competitive action in front of a big crowd, even if the first match had been designated as a ‘friendly’. Even so, the younger lads in the training pool always kept the first-team guys on their toes and we had been joined by some newcomers keen to show what they could do as well, like Jim Harkins, Tony McBride, Vic Davidson, Kenny Dalglish, Freddie Pethard, Danny McGrain and Tony O’Brien
The first match may have been proclaimed as a ‘friendly’ but as every football fan in both countries would testify, clashes between sides from Scotland and England are seldom regarded as ‘friendlies’ and we were well aware that our opponents – Tottenham Hotspur or Spurs as they were usually known – would be keen to show that they were right up there alongside a side which had just won the European Cup.
Spurs themselves had played out a decent season in 1966-67. They had won the FA Cup, beating Chelsea 2-1 in the final and finished 3rd in the league table, only four points behind top-placed Manchester United.
That same Chelsea, on the Wednesday evening, had lost 1-2 to Aberdeen at Pittodrie, also in a friendly and manager Tommy Docherty was fairly positive in his praise of the home side :”Aberdeen will be one of the toughest teams in Britain to beat, particularly at Pittodrie. We were beaten by a better team on the night’s showing. Aberdeen played with tremendous zest and terrific skill. They are quite a side”.
The papers had a field day in their coverage of the prospective contest between Celtic and Spurs, reminding all and sundry that the match was being played at Hampden to commemorate the centenary of Queen’s Park Football Club. Both managers – Jock Stein and Bill Nicholson – had agreed beforehand to allow three substitutions but on the Saturday, that number was increased to four.
I can honestly say that the players were all up for the match and arrived at Celtic Park on the morning of the game full of enthusiasm. The first major match of any season – whether a friendly or not – is a big occasion, a day when after the summer break, the playing staff get back to what they do for a living. The game is always an indication of just how well the pre-season preparations have been going and both managers would have wanted to start out with a win, as it would be a great boost for morale and equally importantly, keeps the fans happy as well!
We boarded a bus to take us over to the Cathkin Braes Hotel for some lunch, which we all thoroughly enjoyed and while we were there, the Boss announced that the Lisbon side would start the match, with four substitutes – Fallon (Peter), O’Neill (Pumper), Hughes (Yogi) and Charlie Gallagher – on the bench. Then, it was over to Hampden, a drive down the avenue with the crowds all making way for us and then an entrance into the main foyer with the cheers of the fans ringing in our ears. What more could a player want?
The draw for the Fairs Cup First Round had been made the previous day and three Scottish clubs were involved:
Rangers v Dynamo Dresden
Hibs v Porto
Dundee v DWS Amsterdam
Right from the first minute that we walked out to the Hampden pitch – and don’t forget this was perhaps 90 minutes before kick-off – we could feel that this was going to be a special occasion. The crowds were pouring into the ground, the sun was shining, the pitch looked in pristine condition and the dressing-rooms had been given an impressive touch up since we had played there in the Scottish Cup final in late April.
Just before kick-off, the Boss merely said that he wanted us to remember what he had said earlier in the week. Every team this season would be trying to knock Celtic off their perch and this would be a first test. It was said quietly but the message got across and the players took it in.
As we came out on the pitch at Hampden that afternoon, both sets of players – and I know this from talking to many of them afterwards – were impressed by the size of the crowd, particularly for a friendly. The figure given later was 91,708.
In a curious twist before the match, the two captains – Billy McNeill and Dave Mackay – exchanged rugs instead of pennants. Both players then paraded the rugs before the spectators.
Murdoch, McNeill, Clark
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Lennox, Auld.
Subs: Fallon, O’Neill, Hughes, Gallagher.
Mullery, England, Mackay
Robertson, Greaves, Gilzean, Venables, Saul.
Subs: Brown, Beal, Clayton, Jones.
On a warm, sunny afternoon, both teams set out to play football in an adventurous fashion, although we went one-down in the first minute-
I minute: Outside left Saul hammered a cross into the box and it arrived at the feet of Jimmy Greaves – looking suspiciously offside – standing beside the near post. He did not miss from that distance. Celtic 0 Spurs 1
We took control of the player after that and in fact, received some criticism in the press the following day for being a little too open. However, play was swinging from end to end and the crowd certainly got their money’s worth in terms of goals –
7 minutes: Jinky beat three men in a run into the box, squared a pass back into the path of Bertie and he made no mistake. 1-1
25 minutes: A great series of ‘one-twos’ between Wispy and Bertie gave the latter another chance and he fairly lashed it home. Celtic 2 Spurs 1
36 minutes: Back came Spurs. This time a run down the right by Robertson and his cross into the middle was met by Alan Gilzean, who out-jumped the Celtic defence. 2-2
At half-time, I thought the Boss would have been disappointed with our defending but he was quite calm, pointing out that this was a very good side we were up against and merely prompting us to take more care in our final pass. From the re-start, we tried to emulate his words but the opposition got an early breakthrough.
49 minutes:: Perhaps the defence was too high up the park pushing for a goal because when the ball fell to Greaves there seemed to be no one near him. That gave him time to kill the ball and then send Ronnie the wrong way with his shot. Celtic 2 Spurs 3
We might have been 2-3 down but we were in control of the play by then and soon got an equaliser –
60 minutes: Lemon made a good run the left, cut the ball back to Steve, whose shot was too powerful for Pat Jennings, although he did get both hands to the ball.. 3-3.
And from there to the end, we dominated play, hit the post through Stevie and the bar through Jinky but the winner just refused to come. However, when we spoke to the fans afterwards, they seemed pleased with what they had seen rather than disappointed at not winning.
Full Time Score Celtic 3 Spurs 3
Ironically, while there had been discussions in the days leading up to the match about allowing three substitutes, a figure which was changed to four on the morning of the game, neither manager made any changes during the course of the contest.
While this was going on at Hampden, in front of that crowd of 91,708, down at Highbury, before a smaller attendance of 34,586, Rangers, with their new signings in place – Eric Sorensen, Andy Penman and Alex Ferguson – were losing 0-3 to Arsenal.
Throughout Britain that afternoon, other friendlies were taking place, most of them Scotland/England encounters –
Arbroath 2 Ipswich 1 Blackpool 1 Partick Thistle 1
Dundee Utd 0 Sheffield Utd 1 Falkirk 2 Motherwell 5
Hearts 2 Preston North End 0 Queen of the South 4 Grimsby 3
Raith Rovers 1 Notts Forest 5 Southend 1 Clyde 3
Tranmere Rovers 2 Motherwell 2 Walsall 3 Morton 0